Speech Unifies Democrats, For Now, Could Set Stage To Bypass Opponents
The day after President Obama's speech Wednesday, Democrats rallied behind his plan, including several key conservative members of the party, the Los Angeles Times reports. "'If the details live up to the quality of the speech, then it's a good plan,' said Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper, a conservative Democrat who has been critical of the healthcare bill developed by House leaders." Other Democrats praised the speech for its endorsement of the proposed public insurance plan (Levey, 9/11).
"Democrats sought to use momentum from the speech to reshape the national political debate after more than a month of playing defense," The New York Times reports. The White House followed up its effort by inviting 17 fence-sitting, centrist Senate Democrats for a meeting the lawmakers later said was very positive.
The Times adds: "In the Senate, in particular, the architects of a bipartisan health care proposal said Mr. Obama's speech had given them a lift by endorsing much of what they have proposed, especially a plan to pay a chunk of the bill's cost with new fees on high-end health insurance plans. 'The president's speech breathed new life into what we are doing,' said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, who is leading the bipartisan negotiations. 'The president is talking about what we are talking about. That is very helpful. We're very close to being in sync here'" (Herszenhorn and Pear, 9/10).
Some lawmakers differ from those views. "Predictably, Democratic leaders of Congress praised Obama's speech, and Republicans in both chambers remained unmoved. However, several rank-and-file Democrats said the president made only incremental progress, at best, and lawmakers could backslide at any time," McClatchy reports (Douglas and Lightman, 9/10).
For instance, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, "said it would take a few days for the president's ideas to 'percolate' as moderates studied them more closely and gauged constituent opinion," The Boston Globe reports (Wangsness, 9/11).
A unified Democratic front, combined with peace offerings to Republicans could "set up a win-win situation" for the President, The Hill reports. "If GOP lawmakers embrace compromise, a healthcare bill would pass Congress easily. But the more likely scenario is that Republicans will continue to oppose Obama's plan, and the president later this fall will be able to note he tried to strike a deal with the GOP but could not." In the latter case, Senate Democrats would have political cover for evoking the partisan 'budget reconciliation' tool, allowing them to bypass the need for Republican support (Youngman, 9/10).
But GOP lawmakers interpreted the speech quite differently. "House and Senate Republicans continued their attacks on President Barack Obama on Thursday, accusing him of using his Wednesday address to make a disingenuous and highly partisan case for health care reform," Roll Call reports (Stanton and Kucinich, 9/10).